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At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  197 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
In this raw and moving memoir, Claude Thomas tells the dramatic story of his service in Vietnam, his subsequent emotional collapse, and how he was ultimately able to find healing and peace. Thomas went to Vietnam at the age of eighteen, where he served as a crew chief on assault helicopters. By the end of his tour, he had been awarded numerous medals, including the Purple ...more
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Shambhala
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Nov 29, 2015 Jessaka rated it really liked it
Shelves: vietnam, buddhism

I saw you standing
in front of the market
on Telegraph Avenue
asking for spare change.

With fear
seeping through
the shadows
of your hallowed eyes,
you let me know that you
were back in Nam,
where you watched
your buddy
a Vietnamese baby
in his protecting arms,
blow up
before those very eyes
that I am staring
into now.

In one breath
you told me that it
wasn’t real,
that it
never really happened;
in the next breath
you asked me “Why?”
And I had no answer
other than to offer you
a f
Claude Anshin Thomas volunteered, at 17, to go to Vietnam and fight the war his nation was waging there. He did so, in part, because his father suggested his should - his father who had fought in WWII, and who passed stories to him about the valor and honor of serving in combat.

What Thomas quickly learned was that there was little valor or honor to be had in Vietnam - that the lines of combat were ill-drawn, that it was impossible to clearly identify an enemy . . . and so he disassociated; grew
Nov 28, 2007 Kit rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Veterans, Spiritual people, Buddhists
This book was amazing. It is well written, almost poetic. It is one of those books that changes your life. It is a must read!
Aug 18, 2012 Aaron rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing and powerful book about the ongoing practice of transforming suffering. I cannot say enough good things about At Hell's Gate, it moved me that much. An autobiography of a Vietnam combat veteran, At Hell's Gate shares with the reader the author's life experiences, from the traumatic to the transformational. This is not your typical Dharma book, and much contained within is not pretty to read about. What makes this book so precious to be is that Claude Anshin Thomas (a mendicant ...more
May 22, 2012 Ajwubz added it
At Hells Gate


Claude Anshin Thomas

At Hells Gate is about a man the was in Vietnam and tells the stories of how it was like to be a helicopter gunner and he explains the suffering he went through all his life whether it was in Vietnam or back home and how he reached peace and transformed his suffering into ways he could handle it and not let his anger and fear from his past consume him. Claude Anshin Thomas was a boy that grew up in a family that loved war Claude was a great sports player and he
Nov 23, 2008 Diane rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Anshin is a Viet Nam vet who suffered from severe post traumatic stress for nearly 20 years before discovering a sense of healing using meditation. His book is really written for other veterans and his life work is directed at veterans and others directly affected by war - although he would say we are all damaged by war and all damaged by violence. The chapter I liked best was the one on pilgrimage and walking as meditation - Anshin has taken walking pilgrimages from Auschwitz to Viet Nam, acros ...more
Biniam Biniam
May 28, 2015 Biniam Biniam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
*Peace can exist* "Without warmongers no weapons and without weapons no warmonger." ~ Biniam Yibaleh ~ My Review about the book *AT THE HELL's GATE* ~
Soldiers are trimmed it to dehumanize other people or the so-mentioned enemies, and therein lies the seeds of war." This reading, "A soldier overcomes hatred and violence" showed the unimaginable understand, namely how it is possible to look at a stranger as an enemy so that killing appears to be legitimate ?
Soldiers pay for most mental illnesses
May 10, 2010 Melinda rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in mitigating human suffering
"War is just the acting out of suffering." He had me on the first page. This small but rich and truthful book took me four months to read a testimony in part to the great wealth of dharma it contains. Below are just a few of the many passages I gleaned from my first reading (some transcribed onto my study wall):

p. 42: The only way to heal, to transform suffering, is to stand face-to-face with suffering, to realize the intimate details of suffering and how our life in the present is affected by
Oct 30, 2008 Jean is currently reading it
Wow. He's a Zen monk now, writing about his experience as a soldier in Vietnam and subsequent suffering through PTSD, drug addiction, and homelessness, and how he was introduced to a Buddhist approach to living with all this by Thich Nhat Hanh. He also tells about his Zen pilgrimages, walking without money or food, in his Buddhist robes, across the country and from Poland to Vietnam. A few quotes: War is just the acting out of suffering... Everyone has their Vietnam--everyone... All veterans of ...more
Greg Brooks-English
So many lessons... That we are all potential killers, that we are all potential awakened people like Jesus or Buddha equally... It's up to us to choose what we want to be and make better causes and conditions for our lives. Claude Anshin Thomas became a solider in Vietnam killing hundreds of Vietnamese people, who he learned to dehumanize and label the enemy. Only many years later, after returning home to a people who rejected him, after chronic drug addiction, did he finally learn to heal himse ...more
Jul 26, 2007 CARYL rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
This book obviously is non-fiction and pretty well written. The Vietnam History part is eye opening, and for those of us who remember, pretty revealing when he talks about how the returning vets were treated and how that treatment affected them. It was not their war. But they paid the price during the conflict and upon their return. To know that he eventually found a path to peace is comforting but then you can't help but think of all those who didn't and whose lives were destroyed for the Polit ...more
Jun 22, 2009 Kendra rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
I enjoyed the first half of this book when he discussed his involvement in Vietnam. I wish he would have went into a little more detail about some of the events that happened to him there. It seems like he left a lot out for being in heavy combat for three years. After about the halfway point in the book it seemed to drag on and get a little boring. Maybe because the second half of the book is more about Buddhism and less about his involvement in the Vietnam war. Overall it was an okay book but ...more
Dec 01, 2010 Andrew rated it it was amazing
This book is for anyone needing to understand the scars left by service in war. I found it difficult to read most of this book because of the ghosts it brought back to me of my own experiences. The great thing about this book is the information at the end of ways to find peace with the guilt of complicity and regretful actions. Thomas is still around giving talks and doing good for all of us. If you get a chance to hear him speak, take it!
Eric C
Aug 08, 2007 Eric C rated it liked it
I got this book at a zen Buddhist center where I heard the author talk. I actually didn't like the talk, but I really liked the book. It's an autobiography about a man who was psychologically scarred by his experiences in the Vietnam war, and who found peach through buddhism. Now a Zen Buddhist monk, he argues against war and violence in any form. The book is a nice introduction to Buddhism, and quite moving at times.
Dec 13, 2009 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this rating is really biased by two things. first, i recently had the pleasure of listening to the author's teaching and was impressed by his wisdom and clarity of thought. second, the book deals with violence and mindfulness, both topics that recently have been on my mind. anshin found me at a really opportune time in my life. i am deeply touched by his words.
So compelling. The true story of Claude Anshin Thomas' journey from Vietnam vet to Buddhist monk. He takes you through the experience of fighting a war and the pain it brought to his life. But, then, perhaps the best part is that, throughout, he guides you through ways of meditation and breathing that help you understand that we are all one and that none of us have to hibernate in suffering.
Cindy Deyo
Sep 27, 2010 Cindy Deyo rated it liked it
This was a fast, 2-day read, 166 pages and very worthwhile. A Vietnam Vet comes to grips with his demons and learns to live with a new vision of peace.
Nov 09, 2009 Olinmt rated it it was amazing
Mar 25, 2014 H added it
Shelves: memoir, religion
Healing is not the absence of suffering. What happens is that through this process of being more present to my own life, I stop attempting to reject suffering. This is healing and transformation. (58)

The bell of mindfulness it not only a Buddhist tradition. In the Middle Ages it was a Christian tradition: When the church bell rang, it was an invitation to stop work and reflect for a moment on the gifts one had received and on the nature of one's life. (59)

But there came a point, through mindfuln
Aug 28, 2014 Judi rated it really liked it
In this memoir, Claude Thomas describes his service in Vietnam, and the damage to him emotionally in that war which eventually led him to becoming a Zen monk. His premise is that everyone has their own experiences in some way of violence or trauma in their lives which mindfulness and compassion can help them through. Vietnam was our generation's war so the experiences he went through are powerful to read and bring back the horror of that time. However, his recovery into being a monk and a peace ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Dolores rated it really liked it
A simply told story of redemption after a life of anger and being part of a war's violence.
Not the most lyrical writer. He just states his story and invites one to understand why we are on this earth.
I met this author and his life today is very fascinating. He has an air of great compassion, but there is something still left that shows one how he was before his transformation. He walks the country telling his story and chanting for peace.
Apr 02, 2013 Lou rated it it was amazing
Gassho for the many, many thoughts that Claude has given me in his words in this small but treasured book. I was fortunate to meet him in person and receive my copy of the book from his hands, I bow to him for his life and his continued wellness. The bell of mindfulness will forever ring in my moments of need.
Jul 22, 2016 Colin rated it it was amazing
With deep insight Claude Anshin tells his tale of transcending the inner war of violence, by his journey of healing a soul torn by the Vietnam War. His simple way of relating the teachings of Zen buddhism illuminates the teachings in a way that is easy to understand and assimilate. A powerful teaching on the source of suffering and how to live without running from ourselves.
Remo Uherek
Jan 03, 2014 Remo Uherek rated it it was amazing
Touching and moving memoir by Claude AnShin Thomas about his service in Vietnam, his subsequent emotional collapse, and how he was ultimately able to find healing and peace. He speaks about the unspeakable, and his ability to transform his life is very inspiring. I know Claude AnShin Thomas in person, and participated in several retreats with him, including a street retreat.
Elaine Gullotta
Apr 24, 2013 Elaine Gullotta rated it liked it
I attended a seminar with this author at Omega Institute of Holistic Studies and purchased the book there. Just like the seminar, the book provides some insight for those suffering from PTSD but I found that it stopped too soon. Slowing down and finding quiet and calm is the first step but what is after that? I was left wanting more.
May 26, 2012 Tammy rated it it was amazing
This book was a great read. The author went from such a state of pain to find peace. I did not want this story to end and will look at Vietnam veterans with more empathy. I am happy he found peace after all the traumatic events in his young life.
Pake Hall
Aug 31, 2013 Pake Hall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very touching book. I shed tears of sorrow, and of joy reading this book about transforming suffering. I bow in gratitude.
Don Givens
May 07, 2015 Don Givens rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
Fantastic, practical, informative look at the growth and healing of a person from their suffering.
Jarl Anderson
Jan 26, 2013 Jarl Anderson rated it it was amazing
The content and context of Claude Anshin Thomas' autobiography gave me an insight into Buddhism and nonviolence that was quite immediate, much more so than ancient texts.
Hwalmer Walmer
Feb 12, 2011 Hwalmer Walmer rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book about living a life and all the muck we get to encounter, face and deal with.
Wise Buddhadharma perspective.
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